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Holy Is His Name

posted Oct 7, 2012, 7:46 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Jan 7, 2016, 4:15 PM ]
The text of this song by John Michael Talbot is the Magnificat, also known as the Canticle of Mary.  Perhaps the earliest Marian hymn, its name comes from the first word of the Latin translation of a narrative in Luke’s Gospel: after Mary greets Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist, he moves within Elizabeth's womb.  When she praises Mary for her faith, Mary sings these words in response...
 
My being proclaims the greatness of the Lord.
He has looked upon his handmaid in her lowliness
and done great things for her.
Holy is God’s Name!

As S. Winifred Doyle, CSJ celebrates her Diamond Jubilee (60 years) as a Sister of Saint Joseph, she says “If the only prayer we ever say is ‘Thank You’, that would be enough!  In pondering this insight of Meister Eckhart, a revered German mystic of several centuries, I formulated my own, far less profound, slogan: Choose Gratitude!  One of the hymns traditionally sung by our Congregation at Jubilee celebrations asks, ‘What can I render to the Lord for all God has rendered unto me?’  Most certainly, Mary’s Magnificat is the only fitting response for a Daughter of Joseph, as our sisters were originally known in the 1850’s.”
 
Since it’s part of the sung Vespers, or Evening Prayer, many composers have set it to music. In 1610, Claudio Monterverdi wrote Vespers for the Blessed Virgin.  J.S. Bach writes his first version for Christmas of 1723, and then reworks it ten years later for the Feast of the Visitation.  At the same time, Antonio Vivaldi writes and reworks his own version.  Anton Bruckner sets it in 1862, adding a Gloria Patri to the ending.  It is the eleventh movement of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s 1915 All-Night Vigil, a work he considered one of his two best compositions.  And inspired by Bach’s, John Rutter premiers his in 1990 here in Carnegie Hall.